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MILWAUKEE (AP) – Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 27 points, had eight rebounds and seven assists after missing two games with a sprained right ankle and helped the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks to a 116-87 victory over the Miami Heat on Friday night.
The Bucks (54-19) clinched their first Central Division title since 2000-2001 Thursday night when the Golden State Warriors beat the Indiana Pacers 112-89.
The win came with a brief scare for the Bucks: Antetokounmpo went down in a mix of players after stealing a pass from Goran Dragic early in the second quarter. Milwaukee immediately called a timeout and after a few moments, Antetokounmpo limped to the bench favoring his right leg. A short rest got him right back on the court.
Khris Middleton added 18 points and 10 assists for a career-best three consecutive games with a double-double for Milwaukee, which improved to (29-6) for the second-best home record in the NBA behind the Denver Nuggets (30-6) and secure their most home victories since 2000-01.
Hassan Whiteside came off the bench to score 14 points, Kelly Olynyk added 13 and Bam Adebayo and Dwyane Wade each had 12, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Bucks took the season series 3-1 for their 16th series win of the season out of a possible 22, including its 11th straight against Eastern Conference opponents.
Last Friday night, the Bucks staged a historic comeback in their 113-98 win over the Heat in Miami. Down 20 points at the half, Milwaukee outscored the Heat 71-36 in the second and won by 15 points. It was the first time in NBA history that a team was down by 20 points at halftime and went on to win by at least 15.
Since that epic loss, the Heat (35-37) had won three straight and are clinging to the eighth spot in the playoffs.
Leading 63-51, George Hill hit a 3-pointer that gave the Bucks an 11-point lead midway through the third and the Bucks slowly built it up to a 25-point margin. James Johnson knocked Ersan Ilyasova into the first row of courtside seats with a hard foul in the closing seconds. A quick review determined it had been a three-point attempt. Ilyasova made two of the three foul shots and gave Milwaukee a 94-69 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Bucks started to exert themselves by outscoring the Heat 30-19 in the second quarter behind nine points and two assists from Antetokounmpo.
Heat: Wade was honored with a video tribute of his days starring at Marquette (2001-03) during a timeout in the first quarter. He tapped his heart and smiled when he was shown on the video display. He also got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd. … Whiteside had three blocked shots in the first half. … F/G Justise Winslow (right thigh bruise) and G/F Rodney McGruder (left knee soreness) did not play.
Bucks: Antetokounmpo was 9 of 11 from the floor in the first half. … Starting G Malcolm Brogdon (right foot plantar fasciitis) and F Nikola Mirotic (left thumb fracture) are out indefinitely. … The Bucks were 9-1 in February, but March has been a struggle. They are 7-5 in the first 12 games.
Heat: Play at Washington on Saturday.
Bucks: Host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.
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